College & University Students

London has a large student population, in 2018/19 there were nearly 386,000 students studying at London’s 39 Higher Education providers. A third of these were overseas students [source].

There is a mixed picture of IAPT services working with students and young people, and IAPT services with large student populations and universities within the borough are more likely to have a targeted service or approach to working with this population group.

Many IAPT services have developed good working relationships with the local university counselling service, jointly delivering workshops to students. Often the targeted offers for students are about building resilience and managing stress. [Please note there is significant overlap with the ‘Working with Universities and Colleges’ section of these resources ]. A few examples are below:

  • Harrow is offering resilience workshops (based on ‘ACT in the workplace protocol’) at local colleges, targeting mature students and teachers. The presentation is here.
  • Havering IAPT have delivered stress management group sessions at Havering College and have a regular feature on the University of East London bulletin.
  • Newham IAPT hold workshops for young people to learn about IAPT and self-refer.
  • Camden and Islington iCOPE provide a ‘University Clinic’ at University College London (UCL), covering topics such as exam stress.
  • Lewisham: Evidence suggests that young people benefit from drop-in services in preference to booked appointments. While Lewisham IAPT does not offer “drop in” services, they have adjusted their ‘did not attend’ (DNA) and cancellation policies for this population to encourage and support their engagement with psychological therapies.
  • Durham University have a high risk, hard to reach population, with many students having low emotional resilience. The IAPT service created a specific tailored pathway for students in 2011 and runs many interventions, for example student wellbeing courses on perfectionism and procrastination. [see case study for more information]
  • Co-ordinating therapy sessions so they end when the term ends.
  • Maintaining continuity of care when students go home in the holidays (see Durham case study for an example of how the service has addressed this).
  • Students can be a very high risk group, presenting with many complex issues – sometimes more complex than IAPT services can provide therapy for.
  • Lots of DNAs. The shift to remote consultations due to COVID-19 may be an opportunity to provide digital options for this group rather than face-to-face.

National guidance advice due to COVID-19

Many students are now studying at home, due to COVID-19. In January 2021, NHS England and Improvement provided the following guidance to mental health services (including IAPT), to ensure that students and young people are accepted for treatment, even if they are not registered with a GP that is local to the service.

Student Access to Mental Health Provision

Current Government advice is that the majority of students who returned home for Christmas should not return to their universities this term, with the majority of teaching provision online (apart from those who have been prioritised for in-person teaching).

In order to remove as many barriers as possible to students and young people accessing the mental health support and input that they need during this challenging time, NHS England and NHS Improvement is encouraging all providers of MH services, including but not limited to IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), CMHTs (Community Mental Health Support Teams) and EIP (Early Intervention in Psychosis) services to accept students and young people for treatment, even if they are not registered with a GP that is local to the service.

This is in line with Service Condition 6.8 within the NHS Standard Contract that obliges providers to accept referrals that give effect to a patient’s legal right to choose.

Student Space launched to provide help and guidance for students through coronavirus. Students in higher education across England and Wales can use Student Space to explore a range of trusted information on key challenges for student life during the pandemic, access additional services such as a phone line and text support, and find out about support services within their place of study. Student Space is run by Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity in collaboration with a range of partners, students and experts.

How to stay mentally healthy at university:

Wellbeing support for young Londoners (ThriveLDN resources)

Student mental health resources (NHS guide)

Student stress (NHS support guide)

Tips on preparing for exams (NHS support guide)

Bereavement and young people (NHS guide)

The Samaritans offer anonymous 24/7 support (freephone 116 123, email:

An update has been made to the Student Mental Health Poster, which can be found here. We ask IAPT services to share this poster with contacts in their area, especially partners in local higher education settings, to ensure that students know there is help available to them – and how to access it.